Sunday, July 30, 2006

Firefox Essentials

Time for another geek blog entry.  I've had this one brewing in the back of my mind for a while, and it's been too long since I've posted anything, so here it is!

I've realized recently that I love Microsoft products a lot more now than I did a few years ago.  Despite this attachment, there are still non-Microsoft products I use on a frequent basis on my home and work PCs, including Paint Shop Pro X, Winamp, Nero 6, and most importantly, Firefox.  Microsoft's Internet Explorer has made significant advances in its seventh iteration to bring it up to speed with Mozilla's offering.  IE remains my primary browser at work due to the number of ActiveX components used on our corporate intranet, but Firefox is my platform of choice when I surf the web thanks to the smooth browsing experience and the extensions.

This is the area in which the Mozilla browsers really shine.  Chances are, if you need Firefox to do something that isn't supported "out-of-the-box" per se, someone probably has written an extension for whatever you're looking to do.  There are numerous add-on toolbars, translation utilities, website integration extensions, skins, icon packs, and so much more available to truly customize your browsing experience.

I'm sure every Firefox user has their own favorite extensions.  Here is my top 10 list of installed extensions I refuse to surf the internet without:

10.Search as you type toggler:  This fixes a minor annoyance with the useful, but still buggy, "search as you type" feature.  Select this from the Tools menu and the feature deactivates.
9.CuteMenus - Crystal SVG:  Okay, this one is purely cosmetic, but it adds colorful icons to all of the default menu items.  Never again will your menus be drab and boring!
8.Image Zoom:  Have you ever wanted a closer look at an image online?  Image Zoom allows you to resize any image through either the context menu or by rolling the mouse wheel while holding the right mouse button.
7.Dictionary Tooltip:  Now having a dictionary is literally a click away.  You can select from multiple dictionary sources and even use translation dictionaries all from this extension's little popup window.
6.Tabbrowser Preferences:  Firefox helped usher in the era of tabbed browsing, but some of the more useful options aren't available through the default options menu, only through the manual about:config settings list.  This plugin brings those settings together into a group in your options menu for even more control over your tabbed browsing experience.
5.User Agent Switcher:  Not all websites play well with non-Microsoft browsers, so you can use this handy little item to trick the site into believing you are really another browser.
4.IE Tab:  This is for those really stubborn websites that still don't work after setting the user agent manually with the previous extension, or have ActiveX components that only run in IE.  You can open an instance of Internet Explorer within a Firefox tab, basically having the functionality of both browsers within one.  Add in the fact that you can automate certain websites to always open in an instance of IE and we have a winner!
3.Download Statusbar:  There's really nothing wrong with the built-in download bin of Firefox, but I prefer this utility instead.  When you download a file, it gets added to a small statusbar at the bottom of the browser window where you can view the transfer rate and time remaining for multiple files.  Small and sleek is definitely in with this extension.
2.Nuke Anything Enhanced:  Flash ads.  Blinking text.  Annoying animated GIFs.  Banner ads.  You know you hate them.  Now you can do something about them with this handy little item and remove the item completely from the page.  If you accidentally removed an item, you can simply undo it.  This one will definitely clean up your browsing experience, and even makes sites look better when printed without all the ads cluttering up the paper.
1.Crash Recovery:  The browsers and operating systems of today are fairly advanced and less prone to crashes, but even the most stable applications can't stand up to a power outage.  This is one of those handy things that you don't think about and appreciate until it happens.  Power outage, reboot, browser crash, or whatever, the next time you start up, all of the pages you were on will be restored with complete history and no need to log back in to sites.  This is an underappreciated feature that has saved me time on many occasions and garners the top spot in my list of top essential Firefox plugins.


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